Bishops debate next steps on sexuality

THE College of Bishops concluded three days of debate on how the Church could resolve its differences over sexuality.

While no decision has been made on the formal proposals that will be presented to the General Synod in February 2023 – these will be finalized at the next meeting of the College of Bishops, December 12-14 – it is understood that the Bishops recognize that simply reaffirming the current ban on same-sex blessings or church marriage is not an option.

During the bishops’ discussions at the High Leigh conference center in Hertfordshire, largely in small groups, it would have been clear that many bishops recognize that a change in policy is needed – whether a national change or a form of pastoral accommodation. not yet clear. Even those who wish to see no change in C of E policy, which also prohibits clergy from marrying same-sex partners, agree that the matter should be debated again.

The agenda of the meeting was entirely dedicated to discussing the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) project, which attempted to clarify the mind of the Church on the issue of sexuality and gender identity, but left decisions on its practical application to the bishops.

A press release describes how the bishops “shared their different perspectives and discussed how the Church should approach issues relating to same-sex marriage and civil partnerships, as well as other pastoral and theological concerns relating to marriage. human identity and sexuality in a way that honors the different deep convictions that exist between the bishops and the wider Church”.

It was not until the final sessions on Wednesday morning that they formally considered possible ways forward. The bishops are aware of a wave of opinion in parishes that the Church’s ban on same-sex marriage must be lifted (News, October 28) – as they are aware that a minority of conservative evangelical churches consider such an unacceptable decision.

At the end of this week’s meeting, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, acknowledged both the continuing disagreement between the bishops and their desire to find a solution. “The Bishops’ honest and fruitful conversations were underpinned by a deep desire to walk together and find a way forward that will be good news for the Church and for society at large. The bishops were united in their determination to achieve clear direction in time for the meeting of the General Synod of the Church in February 2023.”

A spokesperson for the Next Steps Steering Group said: “The course of the three days enabled participants to speak openly and honestly, listening to diverse viewpoints with deep respect both in plenary and in breakout sessions. structured and unstructured group.”

The Archbishop of York said the conversations took place in an “atmosphere of collegiality, mutual respect and understanding”.

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